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June 14, 2014

On The Run: When seeking running challenges, mileage may vary

Everyone loves a challenge—especially runners.

Of course, depending on the runner, the definition of ‘challenge’ varies.

Running challenges come in all shapes and sizes. For some, just getting out for a run once or twice a week is a big accomplishment. Others are training for their first 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon.

The traditional road race is proving to be old hat for many, so an increasing number of runners are entering obstacle races, trail races and all the different varieties of events available to us.

And then for others, the challenge is something else entirely. It’s not about fun necessarily, but rather a need to test the limits of endurance and ability.

Take a guy like Junyong Pak of Beverly, for example. He went from being a sub-3-hour marathoner to becoming one of the pre-eminent adventure racers in the world. Pak won the World’s Toughest Mudder competition—a 24-hour obstacle race in New Jersey in which runners try to do as many laps as they can on an eight-mile course—in 2011 and 2012 and finished second last year. He’s been profiled in Runner’s World and has been known to train while dragging a tire behind him.

Where runners like you or I may find the Boston Marathon hills difficult to traverse, they’re nothing to the likes of Pak and others. On June 7, the Trail Animals Running Club held its TARC 100 (which consists of 100- and 50-mile races) in Weston on a day where temperatures reached the mid-80s. Given that heat and the degree of difficulty on a very technical trail course, most of the runners ended up dropping out of the race at some point. A friend of mine who ran made it to mile 77 before calling it a day. The same day, I ran 10 miles on mostly flat roads and felt pretty good about it, but that was all I was prepared to do.

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